ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Standing near the end of the Naval Academy Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, 71-year-old Bill Sykes peered intently at the sky as the Blue Angels roared above Annapolis.
A Navy veteran who worked on planes years ago in Pensacola, Fla., Sykes said he has seen the high-performance flight group 30 or 40 times.
With the Blue Angels’ return to Annapolis, he and his family spent the afternoon watching the jets fly up and down the Severn River, crossing over surrounding neighborhoods and soaring high into the clouds.
“I just like them seeing them fly,” Sykes said, a USS Constellation hat atop his head and dark sunglasses covering his eyes.
Sykes was one of a number of veterans drawn to the area around the Naval Academy Bridge and World War II Memorial on Route 450 for the Blue Angels performance.
Some sat in chairs and relaxed, their children and grandchildren snapping photos and covering their ears. Others talked with family members and made friends with fellow onlookers.
Among the veterans at the war memorial was Francis Horner, who served with the Army in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. While Horner spent much of the last 40 years living in Glen Burnie, he recently moved to Annapolis and decided to take in the Blue Angels show for the first time.
“I’ve been waiting to see this for years,” Horner said.
Veteran Bob Chambers, of New Castle, Pa., was in town to visit family. While Chambers and his son, Jim Chambers, of Annapolis, picked seats at the war memorial for its high vantage point — it overlooks the Naval Academy Bridge, Severn River and Naval Academy — the importance of the memorial was not lost on them.
“It’s a necessity to remember the men who have served our country,” Chambers said.
Former National Guardsman Jim Mawdsley, of Westwood, N.J., also was in town to visit family, but attended the show at the request of his grandson. Perched atop the war memorial, the pair liked what they saw.
“Our government is showing what our capabilities are, what our pilots are trained to do,” Mawdsley said.
The memorial drew non-veteran onlookers, too, including Mickey Wright of Easton, who attended with his son, Chris, and Chris’ golden retriever.
Wright said he has watched the Blue Angels perform before and was glad to see them return to Annapolis for the first time since 2010. The hiatus was due to safety concerns, scheduling conflicts and federal budget sequestration.
“They should’ve never cut it out in the first place,” Wright said.
Down near the Naval Academy Bridge, Sykes’ family smiled as they watched Blue Angels’ routine. Sykes’ daughter, Lisa Scheminant of Millersville, her husband, Todd, and their son Gavin, 6, last came to the show in 2010, when Gavin was 2.
They like being close to the memorial, Lisa said, but they also like being able to see the Naval Academy as the jets fly past.
“It’s a great view,” Lisa said.
Like many other people gathered near the war memorial, Sykes and his family had fun at the nearly hour-long show.
“It’s enjoyable,” Mawdsley said. “They do a good job.”